Norwich City icon Justin Fashanu to be inducted into football hall of fame
- Credit: PA
Norwich City icon Justin Fashanu is to become only the second ever Norwich City player to be inducted into the National Football Museum's Hall of Fame.
Fashanu, who started his career at Carrow Road and remains Britain's only openly-gay male professional footballer, will be posthumously recognised almost 30 years after coming out publicly - and on what would have been his 59th birthday.
After making his Canaries debut against West Bromwich Albion in January 1979, he scored 40 goals in 103 appearances for the club over three years.
His most memorable finish came against Liverpool in 1980, which saw him win the BBC Goal of the Season award - a banner was unveiled in the River End at Carrow Road on the 40th anniversary of this wonder strike, in the Premier League match against the same opponents on Saturday, February 15.
Fashanu also became the first black player to command a £1million transfer fee when he moved to Nottingham Forest in 1981.
After giving an interview in a national newspaper in October 1990, in which he announced he was gay, the England youth international suffered from prejudice beyond his retirement in 1994, which eventually contributed to his death by suicide in 1998, aged 37.
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On Wednesday, Fashanu will join more than 100 other male footballers, as well as women, managers and iconic teams, in being inducted into the Hall of Fame at the National Football Museum in Manchester.
The only other former Norwich player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame is 1966 World Cup winner Martin Peters, one of only two people to score for England in a World Cup Final - he died last December, aged 76.
His niece Amal told Sky Sports that she believes that this recognition from the sport comes "slightly late", but said that her uncle would be "extremely honoured".
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She said: "I guess for Justin this would be a great moment and I think it's a pivotal moment when we are finally recognising who Justin Fashanu was, not only as the openly gay footballer, but also as a very talented footballer and the first million-pound black player in England.
"When I went up to the Football Museum in Manchester a few years ago, I was quite shocked to not see Justin there [in the Hall of Fame]. Maybe that's because I'm his niece and I just think he's amazing, but as a footballer I would have expected him to be there.
"I have gay football friends who play right now who happen to be gay to their friends and family but just not to the rest of the world. It's their option. I don't blame them because I do know why, but it's very sad - we're in 2020 and I don't understand why there hasn't been a footballer yet to come out who is still currently playing, because nothing will change.
"I think it has got easier because we have moved on in life and in general. I think everyone, in other industries, we're very happy to accept is gay or who is whatever they choose to be, but I guess within football, because it is such a close-knit, dark archaic kind of vibe, it's very difficult.
"I think today, if a footballer came out it would be definitely not even half as bad as Justin coming out, but I think it would still be hard, it would still be a challenge."
Proud Canaries organiser Di Cunningham said: "I'm delighted that the NFM are honouring Justin with the accolade of inauguration to the Hall of Fame. He was a magical footballer and his goal of the season against Liverpool showcased his immense talent.
"Sadly, that mastery was never seen consistently after he left our club - to a large extent, his career was impacted by his openness about his sexuality and the bullying and bigotry he suffered as a result.
"So Justin's unfulfilled talent in the past has denied him the accolade of joining the country's footballing greats - the NFM are quite rightly inducting him now not only as an accomplished player but as an iconic symbol of inclusion."
Pride in Football officer and Proud Canaries member Rob Sanderson said: "It's important to all of us within the LGBT+ movement in football to see Justin quite rightly recognised for his contribution to the game.
"Justin was more than just the first out gay male footballer, but it is right that we remember he came out at a time when it was unheard of within football. As a result he suffered homophobic abuse both on and off the pitch, the lasting legacy of which is that we have yet to see another male footballer come out whilst still playing in the English game."
Last year his brother John, who was also a successful footballer, opened up on the guilt he felt for not supporting Justin at the time.
He said: "There is no question that the prejudice he encountered in his professional life as a top-flight footballer for club and country blighted his career and led eventually to his death.
"When I confronted him and he said he was gay, I just though he was doing it for attention. 'Of course you're gay', I thought. 'Stop showing off. You're trying to take my glory. I'm the number one footballer, I've taken your position and you just want to take my platform'.
"He must have just wanted to bare his soul, but homophobia was the rage then. You couldn't even say the word homosexuality 30 years ago."
Justin Fashanu: Who will he join in the Hall of Fame?
Upon his induction, Justin Fashanu will join dozens of other footballing icons and legends who have also been recognised for their impact on the game, both on the field and off it.
Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters are just a few of the 1966 World Cup-winning squad honoured, with the latter being the only other former City player to feature.
The entire Nottingham Forest squad between 1978 and 1980 also features after their back-to-back European Cup successes - Fashanu missed the cut-off, joining the East Midlands club from the Canaries in 1981.
Forest's manager in this period, Brian Clough, is among several coaches also in the Hall of Fame, including the likes of Bob Paisley, Bill Nicholson and Sir Alex Ferguson.
Fashanu becomes the third player to be inducted since the Hall of Fame was refreshed, after the late Cyrille Regis and ex-Arsenal Ladies stalwart Alex Scott.